Observing Bias with Newsela in the Secondary Classroom

Students read opposing viewpoints on a controversial issue and learn questions to ask themselves to more effectively identify bias
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Observing Bias with Newsela
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About This Strategy

Recognizing our own bias and the bias of others is essential in developing critical thinking and reading skills. In this strategy, students will investigate one side of a pro/con article on Newsela and then present their findings to the class. Students will discover that both sides present accurate, yet diverse, information and will learn to ask questions about audience and authorship, messages and meanings, and representations and reality to more effectively analyze the information they receive.

Before Reading Implementation Steps

Teacher Preparation and Planning:

  1. Decide which article(s) or Newsela texts you will use to discuss bias. Select topics that are relevant to your curriculum and your students.

  2. Determine your system for organizing students into groups and managing student presentations.

Student Preparation:

  1. Ask students: "Have you ever had an argument with a sibling or friend and been asked to tell your side of the story?  Is it possible for both you and the other person to tell the truth but have very different explanations about what happened? Explain."

  2. Allow students to respond aloud and connect to one another's experiences.

  3. Display the definition of bias: "The tendency to hold a particular perspective or preference that favors some thing, some group or some choice."

  4. Encourage students to discuss how sharing your "side of a story" relates to the definition of bias.

  5. Explain that a great deal of information that we process each day is biased and it is essential that we recognize bias to become informed citizens and make intelligent decisions. Instruct students to look at the Article Headlines Slide  (in resources section below) and explain how they represent bias.

During Reading Implementation Steps

  1. Assign a PRO/CON article appropriate to your content and grade level.

    • Go to Newsela.com and type Pro/Con in the search bar

    • A Text Set of possible Pro/Con articles is located in the resources section below.

  2. Instruct half of the students to read the Pro section and the other half to read the Con section of the same article

  3. Encourage students to annotate key information that supports the stance of the author. Students then fill out the central idea and supporting details on the Pro/Con Choose a Side Activity (located in resources section below)

After Reading Implementation Steps

  1. Divide students into groups (Pro and Con) to discuss and write down the main arguments that support the stance of the author.

    • In a large class, divide students into smaller groups of 4-5 and then allow students to select a representative from each of the smaller groups to meet together briefly to compare notes and decide who will share each key idea before presenting.

    • Students present the author's main arguments to the class.

    • Ask students to answer the questions on the Bias Activity Reflection Activity (consult resource section below). Then, allow students to discuss their answers as a large group.

  2. Discuss the NCSS Media Literacy Statement Questions (see link in resource section below).

  3. Assign a Newsela article that correlates to the Pro/Con article discussed. See resource section below for two examples.

  4. Provide students with the Identifying Bias in a Newsela Opinion Article Activity (see resource section below) and instruct students to select a few questions to answer in each section.

  5. Encourage students to share examples of bias in the article and perhaps investigate the topic further to develop a more balanced view of the issue discussed.

Recommended Newsela Text or Text Sets

Pro/Con Article Examples

  • Grade Level: 6-12
  • Content Area: various

Columbus: Hero or Villain?

  • Essential Question: Should Christopher Columbus be celebrated?
  • Grade Level: 6-12
  • Content Area: SS, ELA

Standing for the National Anthem

  • Essential Question: Were athletes justified in not standing for the National Anthem?
  • Grade Level: 6-12
  • Content Area: SS, ELA

Investigating Racial Bias

  • Essential Question: How does explicit and implicit racial bias affect our society?
  • Grade Level: 6-12
  • Content Area: SS. ELA

Choose a Topic That Interests You

  • Grade Level: 6-12
  • Content Area: various

Deeper Dive Into Bias: Racial Bias and its Consequences

Discuss the dangers of explicit (recognized and intentional) and implicit (not recognized, unintentional) racial bias and determine what actions each of us can take to be part of the solution to this problem.

Implementation Steps:

  1. Introduce the terms implicit and explicit bias using the slide in the resources section below. You may consider also showing the implicit bias video (in the resources section below) to further assist students in understanding these concepts. Discuss and allow students to identify examples of explicit and implicit racial bias. Write these examples down in a place where students can reference them as needed.

  2. Assign an article (or allow students to choose an article) on racial bias from the Newsela Racial Bias Text Set (see resource section below).

  3. Instruct students to highlight examples of explicit racial bias in red and examples of implicit racial bias in yellow.  

  4. Discuss these examples as a class.

  5. Ask: What specific actions can each of us take to be part of the solution to explicit and implicit racial bias?

  6. To learn more about supporting students to identify bias, consult the Identifying and Addressing Implicit Bias strategy in the BetterLesson Learning Lab.

Deeper Dive Into Bias: Use the NCSS Media Literacy Questions to Analyze an Article Online

Students use what they've learned about bias to recognize bias in a controversial article online.

Implementation Steps:

  1. Allow students to find an article online that showcases one side of a controversial topic. Provide students with a list of possible topics (see resource section below).

  2. Instruct students to complete the Identifying Bias in a Newsela Opinion Article Activity (see resource section below) and instruct students to select a few questions to answer in each section.

  3. Encourage students to share examples of bias in the article and perhaps investigate the topic further to develop a more balanced view of the issue discussed.

Questions to Consider

  • How will you continue to encourage students to investigate their own biases and the biased they encounter each day?

  • How will you connect this work to future units throughout the school year?

Teacher Tips

  • In a large class, you could provide choice of Pro/Con articles and allow more than one topic to be discussed/presented.

  • Be forthcoming about your own bias.  Because we are human, we have to deal with our own bias. Make it clear to your students that while you have opinions on issues, you will do your very best to not share these opinions as it is not your place to tell students what to think but instead expose them to both sides of an issue and teach them how to think for themselves. Invite students to (respectfully) call you out if you say something that they interpret as biased.

Consulted Resources

In developing this strategy, the resources linked below were consulted.